Government Affairs Committee (GAC) member Evan Pratt, Water Resources Commissioner for Washtenaw County, MI, testified on July 21 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The subject of the hearing was, Addressing Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities Facing our Nation’s Critical Infrastructure. During the hearing, Commissioner Pratt took the opportunity to speak to APWA’s recommendations and priorities for cybersecurity, and these are:
- The federal government must share threat information and provide technical support to state and local governments to enhance cybersecurity. One way may be by establishing Voluntary National Cybersecurity Guidelines andinclude public works in crafting these recommendations.
- Utilize important tools to protect these assets, including Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.
- Comprehensive cybersecurity training for public works professionals to prevent and mitigate cyber intrusions.
- Continue and fully fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Management Performance Grant Program (EMPG).
- Encourage effective asset management strategies.
- Provide robust federal funding through programs including the State Revolving Funds, Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans, and Rural Utilities Service loans & grants, making cybersecurity a specific eligibility for funding.
- Financing mechanisms for water infrastructure investment at the local level should be preserved and enhanced, to allow local governments to better invest in cybersecurity. Lifting the cap on Private Activity Bonds for water infrastructure and restoring advance refunding of tax-exempt municipal bonds can assist this goal.
- Congress should continue to ensure state and local control regarding public works projects as it is the local level officials who are experts on their communities and the community needs.
Questions for Commissioner Pratt focused on the following:
- What tools (such as funding or training) can the federal government provide to assist in safeguarding the nation’s critical infrastructure from potential cyber-attacks?
- What are some the key challenges or impediments faced when trying to defend our critical infrastructure from a cyber intrusion?
Other witnesses testifying at hearing were U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Sophia Oberton, Special Projects Coordinator, Delmar Public Works Department, John Sullivan, Chief Engineer, Boston Water and Sewer Commission, and Shailen Bhatt, President and CEO of ITS America.
The American Public Works Association (APWA) serves professionals in all aspects of public works—a fact that sets it apart from other organizations and makes it an effective voice of public works throughout North America. With a worldwide membership more than 30,000 strong, APWA includes not only personnel from local, county, state/province, and federal agencies, but also private sector personnel who supply products and services to those professionals. Membership in APWA is open to any individual, agency, or corporation with an interest in public works and infrastructure issues.
As a comprehensive public works resource, APWA continues in its rich tradition of making a difference both on an individual and professional level. APWA is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that prides itself on its ability to provide varied educational and networking opportunities that help public works personnel grow in their professionalism and improve the quality of life in the communities they serve.